249 North Street - Table of Contents...................Williams Family in Buffalo - Table of Contents

History - George L. Williams House
249 North Street, Buffalo, NY

Christopher N. Brown

Click on illustrations for larger size -- and additional information

George L. Williams

George J. Meyer, owner in 1910

Williams House and neighbors

George J. Meyer's alterations


Mark Twain's House at 472 Delaware Ave. (demolished)

Richard A. Waite, architect

George J. Meyer, owner in 1910


Located in the Buffalo/Allentown historic district, this massive frame house has survived over the last 120 years, while many of its neighboring buildings have long since been obliterated. For the last few years, the high Victorian house was used as an apartment building/rooming house, but despite neglect, it is still impressive. It is a fitting structure for the new Mark Twain Museum of Buffalo. [Project abandoned in 2004.]

North Street once marked the northern boundary of Buffalo and numerous palatial residences were constructed on the street between 1865-1900. Many mansions were donated to charitable institutions in the 1920s and unfortunately, most of them were demolished in the 1960s and 1970s. 249 North Street is architecturally and historically important and the Mark Twain Museum's presence in Buffalo will help to preserve Twain's legacy in Buffalo as well as 249 North Street as an accessible, historic home.

While Mark Twain lived two blocks away at 472 Delaware Avenue at Virginia Street (see sketch above), he was a frequent visitor of North Street. His friend, Mr. Underhill, lived at 279 North Street (now demolished) and it has been well-documented that Mark Twain visited Mr. Underhill at his North Street mansion.

George L. Williams

249 North Street's original owner, George L. Williams, was one of Buffalo's out standing citizens during the last quarter of the nineteenth century. He was a banker with Erie County Savings Bank and later went on to serve on boards with the Buffalo Historical Society, Pan-American Exposition,and the Buffalo Public Library.

He built 249 North Street in 1877 and lived there until 1896, when he moved to his new home at 672 Delaware Avenue (the palatial estate that still stands on the corner of Delaware Avenue and North Street previously known as the Butler mansion, now the UB Jacobs Executive Development Center mansion).

The massive frame Stick style house at 249 North Street has Swiss styling elements. Some of the distinctive features of this home include its flared eaves and elaborate stick design in the gable and eaves. The chimney stacks are accented with stone, corbels, and panels. Adding to the high Victorian feel of this home are its three story rounded tower and stick design in the clipped east side gable.

The porch and portions of the interior of the house (including staircase and dining room) were substantially changed to the Colonial Revival style in 1909 during a $20,000 remodeling effort designed by architect Emerson C. Dell.

Interior: The open stairway is built of oak in the Colonial Revival style. An interesting feature is the use of a group of three repeating balusters.

The dining room, paneled in rich woods, is also from about the year 1900.

Richard Alfred Waite. Architect

The designer of 249 North Street is an important Buffalo architect named Richard Alfred Waite. Mr. Waite began his architectural career early in the 1870s and by 1874 designed an important office building on Lafayette Square called the German Insurance Building. In 1878 he designed a beautiful hotel with soaring tower on Prospect Park (on the present-day D'Youville campus), about a year after 249 North Street was constructed. Known as Pierce's Palace Hotel, it only lasted about three years, burning to the ground in 1881.

Mr. Waite went on to have a fabulous architectural career, designing mansions, office building, and government structures. In Buffalo, he built a music hall on Main and Edward Streets (last known as the Teck Theater, now demolished) as well as Buffalo Mayor Philip Becker's mansion on Delaware Avenue south of Allen Street (now known as the Plaza Suites). He also designed many buildings in Canada, including the Parliament Buildings in Queens Park, Toronto, constructed in the late 1880s.

At the time of this home's construction, Louise Blanchard Bethune, the nation's first professional female architect was an apprentice in Mr. Waite's office.

Page by Chuck LaChiusa ion 2003
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